Grace and Peace to you.
Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
— Luke 12.51
Humans are intensely social creatures. We instinctively want to fit in, and we want others to fit in as well. We hate to “ruffle feathers,” “rock the boat,” or “upset the apple cart.” And we don’t like others doing it. So whenever we self-differentiate—when we express our own views, feelings, values or choices without expecting others to approve—inevitably others will oppose us, and (mostly unconsciously) try to get us to go along with what they want or expect of us. It’s hard to resist—not to “fight back,” nor to be insensitive to others or closed off to self-examination—but simply to hold our ground and remain authentic.
Jesus, of course, was a master at being himself without cutting himself off, despite heavy pressure to fit in. He invites his followers to do the same, and warns us that it will not bring peace, but division. People will oppose us. Oh, well. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil things against you on my account” (Mt. 5.12).
But before we face other people’s opposition, we face our own “division” within, between our fear and our actions: dividing what we actually choose to do from all our other options. Ultimately our faith is not our feelings but our actions, not our beliefs but our choices. Though we may feel fear, we act from another center, from love. It’s easy to drift along and just do what everybody else does. But Jesus invites us to make clear, intentional choices—even though we know it will make waves. And knowing how hard it can be, Jesus also offers us his strength and presence to help us stay authentic when the world wants us to cave in. Maybe this is part of that “fire” Jesus will baptize us with, the fire he says he brings to earth, the baptism he longs to complete.
Today, pray for courage to see clearly, to choose intentionally, and to stay steady—calmly, without anger, fear or defensiveness, and without cutting yourself off. When you remain devoted to your true self and to divine grace, Christ stays with you. Despite all outward divisions between you and others, you are one with the Crucified and Risen One.
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes